In "Romeo and Juliet," how do different characters react differently to Juliet’s disobedience in Act 3, scene 5?

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clairewait | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Act 3 Scene 5 opens the morning after Juliet has spent the night with her new husband.  When she hears from her father that she must marry Paris, it is not surprising that she is upset and defiant.

Her father is the the most violent in his reaction.  He takes her disobedience as the attitude of a spoiled and ungrateful child.  In short, he thinks she is simply being a brat.  He is therefore angered by her disobedience and threatens first to cart her to the wedding himself:

Or I will drag thee on a hurdle thither. (158)

He calls her several ugly names and then threatens to disown her if she does not follow his direction:

I tell thee what—get thee to church a Thursday
Or never after look me in the face. (166)

Juliet's mother's reaction is at first somewhat passive.  She gently informs her husband that Juliet will have "none" to do with marrying Paris and treats the matter like Juliet is simply impossible:

I would the fool were married to her grave. (143)

As a mother, Lady Capulet here is probably not actually wishing for her daughter to die, but hers is a reaction that shows she's simply fed up and no longer wishes to fight.  Later, she even tries to calm her husband's anger, but ultimately tells her daughter to "do as thou wilt, for I am done with thee" (212).

Meanwhile, Juliet's nurse, the one who arguably knows the child the best out of the three, attempts to stick up for Juliet, briefly.  She tells Lord Capulet that Juliet's attitude is his fault because he is so harsh with her.  Once the nurse realizes however, that there is no stopping the plan of the wedding, she appeals to Juliet to simply give in and marry Paris.

She argues that Romeo is banished, Paris is handsome and rich, and in the end, she will probably be just as happy if she forgets all about Romeo.

I think it best you married with the County.
O, he's a lovely gentleman!
Romeo's a dishclout to him. (229)

The nurse's reaction is by far the most gentle and seemingly loving, however it is also the most surprising.  It would have been more expected at this point for her to continue fighting for Romeo and Juliet's marriage to succeed.


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